Sharing a few reactions from the student leaders of Cups for Caritas this year.
On Sunday, January 14, the Cups for Caritas team had a successful event raising—well, we can’t tell you how much we’ve raised just yet—for the Bethesda Project.
I wanted to thank everybody who helped especially family, friends, faculty, and alumni who gave up weekends to come and help out at the open studios, the student volunteers, those who donated items for the silent auction, Fr. Reilly, Mr. Liga and the liturgical music group, participants at the event, and especially Ms. Plows. Everything you did, whether it was big or small, brought together our community while helping others in a much bigger way.
Towards the end of my Freshman year, a new class, Art and Advocacy, was introduced to ceramic students. I was told that this class would enhance my leadership skills through the organizing and chairing of the annual Empty Bowls event.
Having already taken a ceramics class and helping out with Empty Bowls, I knew right away that I wanted to be part of this class. Now, with one semester of this newly formed class behind me, I can say that it has already impacted me in a positive way. I have gained far more than I ever thought I would have.
By being surrounded by some of the best ceramic students in the school for five of the eight days in the cycle and most Saturdays for the last three months, my ceramics skills have majorly improved. When throwing, trimming, or pulling handles, the more experienced ceramic students were always there giving me small pointers that would better my own work.
More importantly. my leadership skills have grown. The Art and Advocacy team scheduled meetings with different facilitators at Malvern, reached out to possible sponsors, and led student volunteers during the weekend of the event. I learned a lot about the logistics of organizing and running an event that can make a positive impact on others in the community.
If you would have asked me in September what I hoped to gain from this course, I never would have predicted that I would grow and change as much as I did. I think the biggest gain for me was my increased sense of compassion for others.
Meeting with staff at Bethesda Project, seeing pictures of some of the men and women that benefit from their work, hearing their stories, and meeting some of them on the service weekend at St. Augustine’s, I realized how fortunate I am. I realized more than ever that I have a responsibility to do whatever I can possibly do to help.
I have truly gained so much because of this class and I am so lucky that I am in it.
In the past I was involved with Empty Bowls. I went to open studios and volunteered at the event. Yet I had no idea what went on behind the scenes and how hard it was to make this event successful.
This year, as part of the Art and Advocacy class, I learned not only so much about what goes into making an event like this, but also things like how to effectively communicate my thoughts.
This experience also taught me that if you want to do something, there are many things that you have to do that you really do not want to—like asking for money. Asking for donations ties in directly to the communication of thoughts. When we were choosing who would speak at the event, Ms. Plows asked to speak impromptu in class about what we were learning throughout this process. When I gave my disjointed answer, I knew I had a lot to work on.
Informing someone about what we did, and who we were doing it for, was challenging, because at the end you had to ask them for a valuable commodity that they may not want to give up.
Writing blog posts was also challenging at times. This was partially because they were so unstructured. Usual assignments have some kind of guidelines or rubric. These did not. They forced me to really think about what we were doing.
While doing this I realized something: this class is probably the most important class I am taking this year.
What we are doing is not for some imaginary grade, but something that could change people’s lives. If we succeed, we help an organization support homeless people.
That thought helped me do things that I did not want to do.
Other people were counting on us and this class was what we were doing to help them. There are grades in this class, but they are not the main focus.
It’s funny to think that during my senior year, my most important class was not Advanced Placement, or focused on grades, but instead it was the journey we shared to help people who could not help themselves.
The pancakes were sweltering off the griddle tossed onto plates chock full of steaming eggs and sausage. The crowd was lively with hands on the plethora of handmade cups lined up for display. Eyes were lighting up as they cruised by the superb silent auction with bids running through their heads. This was Cups for Caritas. The community was connected in ways I never thought possible through service and delicious food.
The visions I had months before came to life on that day of January 14. Conversations with everyone who attended resulted in an overwhelming positive attitude that made all the work worth it. Watching everything come together was overwhelming, and I thank the Cups for Caritas team for all the work they put in:
- David Wiener with his handle crafting skills and kind heart.
- Johnny McGlinn with his perfectionist attitude and modest throwing skills.
- John Connors with his savvy slab know how.
- John Giordano with his quiet but motivated attitude.
- And of course Ms. Plows—the driving force behind the team who made everything possible this year.
I hope this tradition continues as time goes on because what I’ve learned can’t be put into words it can only be put into actions to benefit others. I’d like to end with a quote. “Today, I close the door to my past… Open the door to the future, take a deep breath and step on through to start the next chapter in my life.” -Anonymous
This was awesome.
Cups For Caritas took up virtually all of our time in the first semester, and the seeing the fruit of our labor was humbling. From the hours spent in the studio and in meetings, to the magical trips to The Ceramics Shop, it all payed off.
We don’t know our total just yet, but we know that we didn’t raise $15,000, and I am a little disappointed about that. However, I am proud of what we accomplished as a team.
With the help and leadership of Ms. Plows, we were able to organize open studios, get clay, meet with Malvern’s different departments, gain sponsors, and bring a community together. In past years, the Empty Bowls committee has raised a little more money than what we raised this year, but they didn’t have the responsibility we all had.I think all we have done this past fall and winter is amazing, and we should be proud.
We all love clay and using our talents to serve others, and that’s unique. I remember early in the year when we all walked into class and Ms. Plows announced that we had our first 30 cups finished. We admired them— and thought that this was going to take a long time.
Somehow we came up with the goal number of 500 cups. The day of the event we had about 730. A week after the event, we have about 500. We eventually ignored the goal number and just started making for fun. We would come in, put on “Monster Mash,” and get right to work.
Many times I found myself coming in after school to make handles. It’s when we are all together, eating candy and laughing, that we have the most fun and make our best work. Sure we have periods where we need to crack down and focus, that’s needed. But ceramics is a communal activity, at least for us. This class is living proof that we can have fun and do hard work that truly serves a purpose. We make together and serve together. Most of the time as we made the cups, we were with each other or hosting guests in the studio. In the end, we gave away these cups to families and friends as one community.
The CEO of Bethesda Project has asked us for 150 cups to be donated to their shelters for the men and women to use. When we heard this we enthusiastically embraced the idea. What better way to further incorporate our cups than to physically place them in the hands of the men and women we hope to impact.
It’s sad for us seniors to think that this was our last Empty Bowls/Cups For Caritas event, but I’m excited to see what we can do in the spring, one last time.
The most valuable thing I learned from this Cups for Caritas experience was the leadership through connections. During the process we were able to connect with people within the Malvern Community, at Bethesda Project, and with other ceramicists who donated pieces to this year’s event. I was able to develop my leadership skills by experiencing first-hand all the work that goes into an event of this size.
I learned that connections can be a make-or-break on achieving your goals. Without the connections with the marketing department at Malvern we would not have known what to do to spread the word about the event. These are the things that go unnoticed for people coming to the event, but behind the scenes it takes a lot of time and preparation.
When we met with the Bethesda Project we were not planning on establishing a connection for the future. We were aiming at learning more about Bethesda Project and what they do there. After all, every dollar we have made so far has gone to Bethesda Project, and this year we finally got to see and learn first hand what our money is contributing to. And yet, we could see in the faces of the people we met with that they were excited for what the future holds in our connection to their program.
As a team, we had the opportunity to go to the Clay Studio in Philadelphia. At the Clay Studio we met the noted ceramic artist Roberto Lugo by coincidence. We shared our mission with Lugo and he loved it. For me, the coolest part was the fact that we were able to meet someone so influential in the ceramics world, and even strike a chord with a personal connection.
As a group we all learned important lessons on how to build these connections and things you can do to help boost your chances of making good impressions. We would always try to come prepared for our meetings with questions and thoughts about what we can do to help better our event, not only now, but in future years to come. Although the event may not have reached the $15K, 500+ attendee goal we’d hoped for, we learned a great deal about leadership and logistics that we will be able to apply in years to come.